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Critics say Romney digging deeper hole for party

Jindal, Graham say ‘gifts’ remark does more harm

- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 18, 2012

Mitt Romney's excommunication from the GOP continued over the weekend, with top Republicans growing increasingly angry with the defeated presidential candidate for the damage he's done — and continues to do — to the party's image.

"I absolutely reject what he said," Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said on "Fox News Sunday" in reference to Mr. Romney's latest statements implying that he lost the Asian, Hispanic and black vote by even bigger margins than expected because President Obama had supplied those voting blocs with "gifts."

"We as a Republican Party have to campaign for every single vote," Mr. Jindal said, repeating statements he made at the Republican Governors Association meeting in Las Vegas last week. "If we want people to like us, we have to like them first. And you don't start to like people by saying their votes were bought."

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham was equally harsh in his critique, saying Mr. Romney continued to dig a "hole" for the GOP.

"When you're in a hole, stop digging. He keeps digging," Mr. Graham said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

"We're in a death spiral with Hispanic voters because of rhetoric around immigration," he continued. "Our party can adjust. Conservatism is an asset. But rhetoric like this keeps digging a hole for the Republican Party and if we don't stop digging, we're never going to get out of it."

Even Cuban-born Romney-campaign surrogate Carlos Gutierrez jumped all over the former Massachusetts governor, saying on CNN's "State of the Union" that he was "shocked" by Mr. Romney's remarks. "I don't know if he understood that he was saying something that was insulting," Mr. Gutierrez, who served as commerce secretary under President George W. Bush.

Mr. Jindal and the views of his fellow GOP governors and of other prominent Republicans like Mr. Gutierrez have put them at odds with some conservatives, both secular and religious, who fear the GOP will now waterdown its opposition to abortion, same-sex marriage and amnesty for illegal immigrants in order to appear more friendly to certain ethnic and racial groups whose share of the electorate is increasing. Those blocs helped tip the balance of the Electoral College to Democrats in latest election.

An uncertain outcome awaits the escalating struggle between those Republicans who want to reverse that trend by making the party more attractive to young voters, women, Hispanics and Asians, and those GOP stalwarts who want the party to continue to take an uncompromising stand in defense of traditional values, letting the chips fall where they may.

Mr. Jindal and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, heroes to many conservatives and GOP moderates for their policy stands against special interests and their legislative accomplishments as chief executives, insisted last week the party can be inclusive in its language — its choice of words — and still hold true to the principles that have held together the GOP coalition of economic, religious and national defense conservatives.

Where the tea party activists fit in that coalition is not clear now. Several tea-party-backed candidates crashed and burned this year, some due to their own ineptitude.

In the Nov. 6 elections, two of the Senate candidates the tea party supported, Missouri Rep. W. Todd Akin and Indiana state Treasurer Richard Mourdock, made well-intentioned but politically inept statements about rape and pregnancy. That allowed Democrats and the press to belittle the men and tag the whole GOP with their views.

After the election, Mr. Romney repeated the substance of his secretly recorded private statements to major donors during the election that nearly half the electorate — including blacks, Hispanics and Asians — is hooked on government aid and wealth redistribution and is permanently lost to the GOP.

One irony is that Mr. Romney, distrusted in the past by conservatives, was articulating a view shared by many of those conservatives. Another irony is that his now-famous "47 percent" statement about government-dependent voters was almost exactly the same sentiment expressed by Texas Rep. Ron Paul — long a hero to "government, leave me alone" conservatives who abhor compromise with "statist" views and policies of moderate Republicans and liberal Democrats. After the Nov. 6 election, Mr. Paul, too, said Americans have become too dependent on government.

In a sense acknowledging that with conservatives, Mr. Romney couldn't win for losing, Mr. Paul said the election showed that Midwestern voters penalized Mr. Romney for his opposition to the automobile bailouts.

Mr. Paul said that pro-bailout, pro-government dependency vote "was sort of like what we are laughing at in Greece."

But other conservatives, including some governors, insist Mr. Romney's comments insult potential GOP voters whose jobs were saved by the bailout.

What concerns social conservatives is that if GOP candidates stop talking about abortion and gay marriage except in politically safe language, the party will drift toward a more libertarian stand on those issues — which is exactly what many GOP women and young Republicans would love to see happen.

Since blue-collar Democrats and religious conservatives helped elect Richard Nixon twice to the presidency, the alliance of libertarian-leaning and traditional-values conservatives has held up with some — but not overwhelming — reliability. Since 1968, there have been seven GOP presidential wins, five Democratic victories.

But the Democratic-voting constituencies are growing, and Republicans like Mr. Jindal argued in Las Vegas and on the Sunday talk shows this week that unless Republicans make inroads among those Democratic-voting constituencies, the GOP is headed for decline.

Ben Wolfgang contributed to this report.

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